Dabo Swinney says high school coaches are the ones setting the pace for style of play across all levels of football, and it’s partly about keeping athletes from being consumed by other sports.
It used to be that the professional levels of football would indirectly determine the style of play at lower levels, trickling down. But now, it’s the high school styles trickling up. Look at the effects coaches like Chad Morris, Art Briles, Gus Malzahn and others have had on the game.
It’s now a trickle-up effect. Colleges (and NFL teams) are getting different kinds of players because of what’s happening at the high school level, and Swinney says it comes back to sport specialization.
“Football used to be trickle down,” Swinney said on WJOX in Birmingham, Ala. “Things would start in the NFL and trickle to college. Now, it’s all reversed, and I think a lot of it is because of the competition for the athletes. When we were coming up, you didn’t have year-round basketball, year-round baseball, lacrosse, all that kind of stuff. Now, you’ve got these high school coaches that are having to fight and compete for athletes. The times have changed.
“I played in the I-formation in high school. That’s what we did and what we knew. A lot of the best athletes played running back or receiver or DB. Now, a lot of those guys are quarterbacks, and it’s become more of a passing game with 7-on-7 and all that type of stuff. That has affected the recruiting pool at college. Over the last seven, eight years, you’ve seen this big change in college.”
Hal Mumme created the Air Raid offense, and it happened as a high school coach. He wanted to have a style of play that appealed to basketball and soccer players. As Mumme said in May, you have to change your style of play to fit society.
Sport specialization has taken over at the youth level, with parents driving kids to one sport to increase their chance at a scholarship and career. Still, nearly 90 percent of 2015 NFL Draft picks were multi-sport athletes in high school. With so many camps and 7-on-7, football itself is becoming year-round, too.
“You look at the pros, everybody talks about having a guy under center, but how many times is Tom Brady under center?” Swinney said. “You see these guys in shotgun. It really has trickled up, and I think you’re going to continue to see that. These high school coaches do a tremendous job of adapting and trying to find a way to keep their athletes. That has resulted in the changes in college football.”